Online shopping experience is awesome – everyone says. For me, over the past week, online shopping experience has been anything but awesome. Ever since I got engaged (YES! Am Engaged!!), I wanted to gift something special to my fiancee Prarthana who stays thousands of miles away in India. The marriage date has been fixed for December 29, 2008 and since I stay in Dubai and she stays in India, we have only been in touch through chat sessions and phone calls. Long distance relationship is the hardest and it sometimes can be overwhelming.
So, on 17th October 2008, I decided now was the time to send her a gift to cheer her up. So I started by Googling “send gifts to India”. Google threw up a huge list of websites – I chose Rediff.com out of the lot because it’s a known company, which can be trusted. I quickly went through the offers they had on their shopping site and I zeroed-in on the perfect gift for Prarthana.
I clicked on “Add to Cart”, and then clicked on “Proceed to Pay”. That’s when the site displayed a message saying the item i had requested was out of stock. Okie, so now I was back to square one. I checked the search result page on Google again and I saw Indiatimes Shopping on the list. Indiatimes is a part of the Times of India group – the largest media company in India and one of the top media companies in the world.
So I clicked on the link and started gift searching again. I was in for a surprise, when I found the exact gift I had tried ordering on Rediff.com, on Indiatimes Shopping. I quickly proceeded to checkout, and i was presented with a whole range of payment options. I used my online banking account with ICICI Bank to order the gift (and the amount was instantly deducted from my bank account).
After ordering the gift, I quickly checked my email account. Indiatimes Shopping sent me a receipt of the purchase with an order number and other payment details. I said to myself, “That’s really cool! It’s so convenient.” The mail from Indiatimes Shopping said that the order will be delivered to the delivery address within 48 hours. It seemed like a damn neat deal. Since I wanted it to be a surprise, I didn’t want to let Prarthana know. However, since I keyed in her office address as the delivery address, I asked her to expect a package from me through Indiatimes (and no, I didn’t share the gift’s details).
She was happy, and so was I. So, since I ordered on 17th October (Friday), I thought Indiatimes would deliver the package on 18th October. I checked with Prarthana on the evening of 18th October (Saturday) and learned that the package had still not been delivered. I figured since it was raining heavily in India, the shipment might have gotten delayed. I told Prarthana that may be the package will be delivered on Monday, 20th October 2008 (Indiatimes does not deliver on Sundays and holidays).
I checked again with her on 20th October and found out that the package was still not delivered. It was well past the 48 hour delivery promise I was made. I quickly sent a mail to their “Customer Service” department giving them details about the order and everything. I got an instant “standard” reply from them telling me how their customers are important and that I should expect a reply from them after 2 working days.
I was patient for two whole days, but I lost my cool when on the third day I still hadn’t received any reply from them. I sent another mail asking them about the status. Fourth day (after sending the first mail to the customer service), and still no reply. I was pissed off! I immediately called customer service number in India to inquire. An automated IVR system answered my call and after selecting ‘2’ for English and ‘2’ again for shopping queries, a high pitch voice started rambling about special Diwali promotions called “offers ka baap” deal. By the way, “offers ka baap” essentially translates to “the father of all special offers” in English.
After the voice finished rambling, I thought I would now be transfered to a “real” customer service agent. Instead, everything went silent and after a few seconds, the IVR system hung up on me. I said, “WHAT THE F*CK???”. I spent about 20 dirhams (about Rs. 250) just to listen to their offer shit. I called again, and the same thing happened. So now, I was out AED 40 and still nothing. I checked their Shopping site and they had another customer service number for their travel department.
I quickly dialed the number and this time the call was successful. A guy named Karan answered the phone and I started narrating my story to him. He said that he will now transfer to the right department and asked me to hold the line. I asked him not to transfer me again because their stupid shopping customer service number doesn’t work. I demanded talking to the supervisor. Karan then said that there wasn’t any supervisor on the floor, and asked me to mail the details of my order and my complaint to another e-mail address and promised me that he would forward my mail on urgent basis to the right department.
I said I was OK with it and noted down the customer service e-mail ID. After getting all the details, he then started rambling his script to sell me some air tickets. I interrupted him – “Woah, woah, slow down! Do you think I will order something again through your service, after I have gone through all this crap??” He said, “But sir, this is a different department.” I answered, “Yes, but it still is the same company, right??”
After finishing the call, I sent an e-mail to the e-mail ID Karan mentioned. I immediately got another automated message telling me that I was a valuable customer and blah de blah! So, after spending a lot of money, speaking to three customer service agents, and sending 10 e-mails, Prarthana has neither received the gift, nor have I received a refund yet.